Consulting with your workers is an essential requirement under Australian work health and safety legislation and it’s also an important principle of good work design. In this blog we’ll be discussing how to move your workplace consultation — particularly if flammable liquids are involved — beyond appearance levels, to full participation by your workforce on matters of health and safety
Principle 8 — Good work design actively involves the people who do the work, including those in the supply chain and networks. Safe Work Australia
Good Work Design - Principle 8
Good Work Design Principle 8 recognises that consulting with the workers who actually use, store and handle Class 3 Flammable Liquids is critical when developing safe work procedures, purchasing chemical storage and decanting equipment, or designing chemical handling areas.
Workers who are involved in chemical risk assessments and the development of safe work procedures have a better understanding of the health and safety decisions which affect them — and at the same time — how their individual actions can impact other people in the workplace.
But it isn’t just direct employees who contribute to safety at a worksite, Principle 8 also recommends seeking guidance from different stakeholders along the supply chain including chemical suppliers, delivery drivers, maintenance contractors and chemical waste collection companies.
Consulting with your workers
What does workplace consultation look like in practice? It’s more than making an announcement at a health and safety committee meeting — and involves managers, supervisors and workers at all levels of the organisation. Here are some suggestions for getting started:
1. Risk Assessments
Involving workers in risk assessments is a great starting point for workplace consultation. Have your workers attend safety audits and play an active part of the hazard identification process. Eg, workers who decant chemicals and fuel on a regular basis can quickly outline some of the difficulties they encounter for a risk assessment (eg, spillage from overpouring, incompatible container sizes, loose fitting nozzles, poor lighting).
2. HSE Committees
HSE Committee meetings are an opportunity for management and representatives from individual work areas to open up discussion on safety issues. Eg, a suggestion by management to increase weekly chemical deliveries from 2 to 3 deliveries per week may be questioned by logistics staff who don’t have enough forklifts and lifting aids to safely process any more deliveries.
3. Project Teams
Project teams plan and implement major purchases, site upgrades, renovations, demolition and construction projects. Appointing worker representatives to a project team can foster cooperation as the project is being rolled out, but more importantly, draw on practical expertise to design out hazards. Eg, the HSE Manager sitting on a construction project team who are designing a new warehouse can advise on aggregate quantities of flammable liquids stores that cannot be exceeded.
4. Staff Meetings
Staff meetings don’t have to be a one-sided affair where either management delivers a stern warning or celebrates an exceeded sales target. Staff meetings can also be effective collaborations when workers are encouraged to participate and have their say. Eg, at an open safety forum at the end of a staff meeting, outdoor staff complain that empty fuel drums are being repeatedly left outside on the ground (without bunding) or caps. These drums have chemical residue and are still flammable and potentially explosive.
REMEMBER: Merely updating a group of workers AFTER you have purchased and installed a set of flammable liquids cabinets is NOT workplace consultation.
Effective workplace consultation
Effective workplace consultation exists when workers are genuinely involved in decision making and feel confident that their contributions are valued by the organisation. Examples include:
- There are mechanisms in place for workers to report safety issues — or when things are not working. Eg, the light in the flammable liquids store is not working, staff and contractors in the area know exactly how to report the fault.
- When things get reported (or flagged during an audit inspection), they get fixed promptly. Eg, a worker’s eye guard is dropped, and the eye pieces now have scratch marks, the eye guard is immediately replaced.
- Health and Safety Representatives (HSR’s) are given the time and resources they need to fully represent the safety issues in their work areas. Eg, HSR representatives from the chemical stores are given 2 weeks’ notice before a consultative meeting and are able to attend during paid work time.
- Workers are advised of the outcome of consultation meetings and projects. Eg, workers at the chemical drum decanting station were interviewed when management was deciding whether to continue hand-pouring or purchase drum caddies. A follow-up meeting was held to announce the purchase of drum caddy’s and the fundamental reasons behind the decision.
IMPORTANT: For workplace consultation to be effective, workers must feel they can be fully honest about health and safety issues without fear or reprisal or repercussions from management and co-workers.
We always recommend carrying out a risk assessment which involves your workers before selecting and installing Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets. To learn more about how safety cabinets which have been manufactured according to AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids meet all the principles of good work design, please download our detailed eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. Download and read it today, it’s completely free.